In 18th Century there was many women that achieved recognition as professional artists: Angelica Kauffmann, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Rosalba Carriera, Mary Moser just to name a few.
So, the question is: Why was the eighteenth century such a favorable period for women to develop a career as artists?
To help us understand this period better and perhaps find the answer to our question, today I want to recommend you a book. I know that some of you are very interested in book/films recommendations about the role of women in Art History.
The book I want to recommend today is Eighteenth-Century Women Artists by Caroline Chapman. This book helps us to understand how the life for women was during the 18th century and how these circumstances affected those who wanted to become artists.
The book is easy to read, even for those who don’t know anything about art. It is divided in 10 chapters that include: the role of women in the society of 18th century; the training issues faced by female artists; the genres of painting and their status and how it affected the work of women; how should be the studio of an artist; clients; the marketplace and patronage, etc.
The role of women in the society of 18th century it was established since the beginning of her education, most of women received their education by a governess at home. During this period, it was important to women learn how to read and write, and any other thing that could help them to be a good wife. However, as the century was passing, it was appreciated that young women could speak French and a little of Italian, as well as drawing and painting, but this knowledge could not be taken seriously.
Most of women who became artists in 18th century were daughters of artists, exactly as it was in Renaissance and Baroque periods. Bur not all of them were part of a family of artists. Vigée Le Brun, for instance, had parents interested in paying for her art education.
The book still mentions some of the problems that these artists needed to face as not being allowed to study anatomy from live models, also the problem of portraying a male model with all the social restrictions.
A very interesting part in my opinion was when she explains how was an artist’s studio and the patronage.